Ancient Solar System Like Ours Spotted by Telescope


A team led by the University of Birmingham in the UK have spotted an ancient solar system that looks much like ours using images collected by the Kepler telescope.  The system is around 117 light years away and is the oldest known of its kind, having been formed around 11.2 billion years ago.  It contains a star that is orbited by five plants all similar in size to Earth.

Dr Tiago Campante said that the system could even give a clue to the existence of ‘ancient life’ in the galaxy.  This is because by the time Earth was formed, these planets were already older than our planet is today.  He added that it might help to pinpoint the very beginning of planetary formation in the galaxy.


The work was detailed in the Astrophysical Journal and detailed what researchers have called Kepler-444 and its planets.  They are two and a half times older than Earth and date to what is described as the ‘dawn of the galaxy’.

Mercury and Venus sized planets orbit the star within the equivalent of 10 of our days.  This means the proximity to the star rules out the chance of life existing there, it did show planets of Earth-like size that could exist around another star of a similar age that could support ancient life.  In fact, Dr Campante pointed out that somewhere there could be civilisations that have a billion years head start on us.


The Kepler telescopes mission has so far discovered hundreds of new worlds since NASA launched it in 2009.  Scientists use the dips in light as a planet passed in front of its start to be able to spot their existence.  They then use the natural resonance of the star and the sound trapped within it to measure the diameter, mass and age of the star and its associated planets.

Hunting for planets has become the most exciting field in astronomy with an area once considered science fiction to be a scientific reality.  This new discovery is particularly interesting due to the similarity to the planets in our own solar system.  It shows that planets of the size and nature of Earth have been around for the majority of the 13.8 billion year history of the Universe.

It also expands the knowledge on the early formation of planets and for the potential of ancient life somewhere among the stars of our galaxy.  The search for these planets is also continuing with more universities and other establishments launching planet hunting telescopes and programs.  It seems that all the budding astronomers in the world will be dream of finding the planet that contains alien life for real in future generations, not just as the content of a great sci-fi film.


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